Eye on GSO

A Tale of Two Tornados

One recent, another from 85 years ago

By Billy Eye

On April 15, 2018, a 135 MPH, EF2 tornado ripped through east Greensboro, devastating properties and upending lives at each point it touched down. One person was killed. (Remarkably, there weren’t more fatalities.) Today, the area that was hit is still attempting a return to normal. There are empty lots where homes used to stand and wrecked elementary schools and churches. Blue tarps cover damaged roofs.

Greensboro Community Television producer and firefighter Brian Dunphy recently filmed and edited a documentary that takes viewers into neighborhoods that, even after 3 years, remain in a state of flux. For a bit of history and perspective, Dunphy interviews two O.Henry contributors, Jim Schlosser and Billy Ingram, about a “freak twister” that roared down South Elm Street in April of 1936. That disaster left more than 12 dead and dozens more injured across its path of destruction, which devastated an industrial and residential zone that was just beginning to flourish.

The 1936 storm left behind 1.5 million dollars ($28 million today) worth of damage. Just as it would be 85 years later, the African American community was hardest hit. The Blue Bell overall plant (located where Mellow Mushroom is today) was completely destroyed, leaving 700 temporarily unemployed. Dillard Paper Company as well as Glascock Stove & Manufacturing Co were also severely impacted. All three businesses managed to regroup and thrive. 

In recent weeks, there’s been a flurry of activity related to the 2018 Eastside tornado with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro building five new homes for the displaced.

You can find Brian Dunphy’s Tale of Two Tornadoes on Youtube here

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